NBA Jam Tournament Edition
by Robert A. Jung
Atari Corp., for the Atari Jaguar
Is it really necessary to describe this title? Like Dragon's Lair, Zoop, Tetris, and Myst, NBA Jam Tournament Edition is one of those video games that ends up ported to almost every video-game console known to man. For good or for ill, the end result is a title that gets seen by just about everyone who plays video games to any degree. Unless you've been stranded on a deserted island for the last five years, the odds are very good that you are already familiar with the title.
Still, for the sake of those just-rescued-from-Gilligan's-Island readers out there, here's a quick summary of the Jaguar version. NBA Jam T.E. is a basketball game for four players, a sequel to Midway's original NBA Jam arcade game. Two teams of two players each try to out-steal, out-shoot, and out-jam each other for the most points in four quarters. The emphasis is on speed and style, where realism takes a back seat to nonstop action and thirty-foot-tall slam dunks. Players can be substituted between quarters, and beating all 27 teams allows access to harder teams and special characters. Statistics for up to sixteen players can be saved to the cartridge, and with the Jaguar Team-Tap peripheral, four people can play simultaneously.
Quite simply, NBA Jam T.E. on the Jaguar is a flawless port, and this is one of the closest translations available to date. Players familiar with the original's tactics, strengths, and weaknesses will be right at home with this cartridge. Almost everything from the original has been duplicated exactly; the only omission I could find was that the Jaguar version doesn't record birthdays for player initials. Even the arcade's various secret modes are included, though the access codes have been changed.
As with other home translations of NBA Jam T.E., this cartridge also expands on the original with new features for home play. The game clock, shot clock, overtime duration, and computer difficulty can be adjusted, while computer assistance, power-up icons, and "hot shot" areas can be toggled on or off. Player rosters have been updated, a Rookies team is available, and hidden characters like Hugo the Hornet and Prince Charles are waiting to be found. The game is fast and fluid, with wonderfully responsive controls and nonstop action at all times. Between the numerous game options and the four- player simultaneous play, NBA Jam T.E. offers enough variety for countless hours of fun.
NBA Jam T.E. on the Jaguar offers the best sights and sounds of any of the cartridge-based consoles available now. Every graphics frill of the arcade, no matter how trivial, is included here: smooth animation and fast scrolling, multiple levels of parallax, animated crowds and cheerleaders, intricate details everywhere, and more. Unlike the Genesis and Super Nintendo versions, NBA Jam T.E. on the Jaguar also boasts scaling players and identifiable faces; from Grant's glasses to Rodman's colorful hair, there's never any doubt which stars are on the court.
The worst thing one can say about the sound is that they're just shy of being perfect. Music consists of a fair assortment of tunes that play through the game; they do a good job of unobtrusively filling in the quiet moments, but there's nothing noteworthy. Sound effects are lifted from the arcade, and consist of various basketball and crowd noises, along with a very prominent announcer. Every play, every player, and every team is clearly named, though some of the newest characters are obviously dubbed by a second speaker, and occassionally a basket is miscalled as a miss. Finally, NBA Jam T.E. offers stereo music and surround sound for players with sophisticated setups.
Between this title and White Men Can't Jump, programmer Adisak Pochanayou risks getting pigeonholed as a basketball authority, even though he insists to being a novice at the sport. But that doesn't hurt him in the least, as NBA Jam Tournament Edition is a quality title that's easily the best cartridge version available. Whether for one game or an entire tournament, by yourself or with a crowd, NBA Jam T.E. on the Jaguar is highly recommended for Jam fans everywhere!